By Al Parker
American motorcoach companies can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could directly impact their daily operations, according to Tom DeMatteo, chief legal officer for ABC Bus Company.
“Cyber security is of vital importance as it relates to shutting down a company website so that dispatch isn’t working,” said DeMatteo, who will be a key presenter on terrorism and cyber terrorism issues at the UMA Expo in January.
As vehicle technology becomes more sophisticated, it’s been shown that control of a vehicle can be done from afar. From onboard diagnostics to Bluetooth modules, to embedded internet communication devices, modern commercial vehicles are vulnerable to hackers.
In addition to cyber threats, the looming spectra of overt terrorism to motorcoaches and other commercial vehicles is very real, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which has published a detailed guide on the subject.
“The Motorcoach Counterterrorism Guide” is available from TSA or the United Motorcoach Association (UMA).
Earlier this year, the TSA issued a warning to owners, operators and rental agencies to protect their vehicles from theft. The TSA report noted that terrorists are particularly interested in commercial vehicles because they can easily penetrate security barriers and cause significant damage and casualties.
Also, motorcoaches often have easy and routine access to sites where large numbers of people congregate, such as sports complexes, shopping centers and entertainment venues. To guard against such attacks, owners and operators should understand how their vehicles might be obtained, including having a trusted driver carry out or aid in an attack, hijacking, theft, rental or purchase.
Other security experts who will be making presentations on terrorism at the January UMA Expo include Los Angeles attorney Jean M. Daly, who specializes in cyber security, and TSA official David Cooper.
TSA Security Tips
- Adopt a ‘no stop’ policy when possible, especially within two or three hours of departure.
- Make sure only ticketed passengers are allowed on the bus.
- Follow all en route tracking and communications protocols.
- Conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections of the motorcoach.
- Know the route, especially if it is a new one or has a pickup/drop-off sites never visited before.
- Know that technology, such as GPS, can fail and have a backup plan.
- Park in safe areas with ample lighting.
- Carry a 24-hour emergency phone number.
- Keep dispatch aware of your route and any route changes.
- Lock the coach and close all windows when it is parked.
- Stop only in designated rest areas where other vehicles are parked.
- Do not stop for motorists in trouble, but call for assistance.
- Watch for suspicious vehicles at pickup points and those who seem to be following the coach on a highway.
- Keep the license plate number and VIN with you at all times. Law enforcement will need them if the coach is stolen or hijacked.